The History of Campaign Web Sites

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'96 and '98 Elections

In 1994, when the use of the Internet was still in its infancy, only a few candidates for any type of office created Web sites. In 1995, though, the "great digital phase shift" (Raney, 1998) 1 occurred and for the first time "personal computers outsold television sets, the number of e-mail messages surpassed surface mail messages, and data traffic over telephone networks . . . exceeded voice traffic" (Raney, 1998). 2. The president of Town Hall, a self-described conservative shopping mall, declared "television and radio are the old war. The new war is the battle for minds on the Internet" (Katz, 1998). 3 Political consultant Phil Noble stated that 1998 "will be the last election year of the old media age and the first year of the new media, or digital, age" (Johnson, 1999). 4

1996

Click for full screen image In 1996, all the major candidates' campaigns for the presidency created their own Web pages. These sites contained candidates' speeches, position papers, pleas for campaign contributions and volunteers, and in some cases audio and video clips. The Republican National Committee reported that 8,000 people signed the site's guest book in the first few months of the sites' existence. Additionally, Bob Dole's Web site received more than 3 million hits during the first six months of operation and more than 10,000 people joined the campaign e-mail list, and 1,700 registered to vote (Johnson, 1999). 5 Bill Clinton and Al Gore boasted that their site received more than 1 million hits in the first 10 days. 6

1998

By 1998, there were hundreds of campaign Web sites. Approximately five months before the November elections, Political Resources Directory, a reference publication for campaigns and the election industry, listed 125 campaign Web sites for Senate or Congress; 98 for governor, state legislator, or other state office; and 29 for local offices. More than 80 percent of California political candidates had Web sites (Johnson, 1999). 7

While it is obvious that political campaigns had accepted, and were interested in, the new Internet medium, it should be noted that the public were not as interested in campaign Web sites. In the 1996 election cycle, only 6 percent of all voters had visited a politically oriented Web site. Less than two years later, the number of people accessing the Internet "skyrocketed"; more than one-third of all Americans were accessing the Internet from home and their places of employment. Despite the increase, those who go online are much more interested in information about their hobbies, movies, health, science, finances, weather, and entertainment. They were not interested in politics or politicians' "brochures in the sky" (Johnson, R.J., 1999). 8

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Created On November 29, 2001
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